Richard Charkin in Frankfurt: ‘Day One Minus One’

In News by Richard Charkin4 Comments

Richard Charkin, now on his 51st Frankfurt, opens a series of observations with a look at his arrival at Frankfurt Flughafen.

Image: Publishing Perspectives, Richard Charkin

By Richard Charkin | @RCharkin

‘I Was Last in the Queue’
As any “fule kno,” Frankfurter Buchmesse runs from a Wednesday to a Sunday in October every year. It seems that every year, at least for me, it starts earlier in the week and ends sooner: Monday evening to Thursday afternoon. This year is no different.

Richard Charkin

The plane from London is, as ever, full of British publishers, including a good friend sitting in 1A at the front. I was allocated 17B in keeping with my post full-time executive position.

Of course, the plane wasn’t able to park at the terminal and we were obliged to wait for coach transport.

Coach One arrived and absorbed the lucky passengers from the front. I had to wait on the plane steps for Coach Two when my friend from 1A rushed back to the plane to find his misplaced mobile phone. He couldn’t find it—by which time Coach One had set off for the terminal carrying his luggage.

So he was now without phone or luggage.

My tiny publishing company is called Mensch and the only properly mensch thing to do was to stay with my friend until his predicament was resolved one way or another. Fortunately, Coach One realized he was carrying luggage without a passenger and waited for us, where my friend found his phone at the bottom of a bag and all was well.

Unfortunately this all took time and when we arrived at Passport Control there was the traditional Frankfurt Book Fair huge queue. The photo above shows only half the line. It’s of course one of the many joys of Brexit. I was last in the queue.

My friend then showed me his second passport, a German one, and enjoyed the pleasure of waltzing through the European Union gates, leaving me to face the tedium tout seul. I cannot blame him for the lack of reciprocity: I’d have done the same.

Image: Publishing Perspectives, Richard Charkin

I know that the EU wants to punish the UK for Brexit, but making all these perfectly innocent passengers from China, Japan, and India wait is taking it a bit far.

Apart from politics, the theme of this year’s fair is AI. I’m no expert but it wouldn’t seem too difficult for AI to work out when planes arrive and allocate passport officials appropriately. Or perhaps it only requires common sense.

Image: Publishing Perspectives, Richard Charkin

My first date was at 8 a.m. on Tuesday for a meeting of the international advisory board of the fair, distinguished (apart from me) publishers from the USA, Canada, Germany, Spain, etc., to advise the fair’s management.

The proceedings are of course confidential and subject to the Chatham House Rule, so I’ll let you guess the main topic of conversation this year.

It’s a shame that this will rather overshadow the celebrations for 75 years of the fair.

I have attended 51 of these and am hoping for ‘several’ more—I was about to write ‘many’ but that would have tempted fate.

Join us monthly for Richard Charkin’s latest column. More coverage of his work from Publishing Perspectives is here. Richard Charkin’s opinions are his own, of course, and not necessarily reflective of those of Publishing Perspectives.

Now available here for your free download, our 2023 Publishing Perspectives Frankfurt Book Fair magazine

Our 75th Frankfurt coverage from our Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which has been available throughout the trade show in print, is also available for your free download.

The magazine has more interviews with fellows and grant-program recipients from international publishing markets, as well as previews of programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana; highlights of key events at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse; and coverage of Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.

There’s also news of literary agents and agencies; award-winning books from guest of honor markets; focus articles on artificial intelligence, sustainability; and a forthcoming effort to get more Korean literature into world markets; as well as 75th-anniversary “Frankfurt Moments.”

About the Author

Richard Charkin

Richard Charkin is a former president of the International Publishers Association and the United Kingdom’s Publishers Association. For 11 years, he was executive director of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. He has held many senior posts at major publishing houses, including Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Current Science Group, and Reed Elsevier. He is a former president of the Book Society and non-executive director of the Institute of Physics Publishing. He is currently a board member of Bloomsbury China’s Beijing joint venture with China Youth Press, a member of the international advisory board of Frankfurter Buchmesse, and is a senior adviser to and Shimmr AI. He is a non-executive director of Liverpool University Press, and Cricket Properties Ltd., and has founded his own business, Mensch Publishing. He lectures on the publishing courses at London College of Communications, City University, and University College London. Charkin has an MA in natural sciences from Trinity College, Cambridge; was a supernumerary fellow of Green College, Oxford; attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School; and is a visiting professor at the University of the Arts London. He is the author, with Tom Campbell, of ‘My Back Pages; An Undeniably Personal History of Publishing 1972-2022.’


  1. I was delighted to see your nod to the excellent Nigel Molesworth in your first sentence. Not enough people kno….

  2. The late Peter Warner, a regular Fair attendee for Thames & Hudson, calculated that he had spent two weeks of his life waiting for his luggage at the Frankfurt airport.

    1. Fortunately now that there is less need for large cases of books (ipads do the heavy lifting) the luggage catastrophes are less bad – but the passport and security issues much worse.

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